After bombs, Bali youth drives creative industry

Energetic: Bali’s Navicula band performs at a charity concert for the orangutan in Medan, North Sumatra, in July. The musicians are among many livening up the island’s creative industries. (Antara/Irsan Mulyadi)
Energetic: Bali’s Navicula band performs at a charity concert for the orangutan in Medan, North Sumatra, in July. The musicians are among many livening up the island’s creative industries. (Antara/Irsan Mulyadi)

In conjunction with today’s commemoration of a decade since the blasts of 2002, The Jakarta Post’s Prodita Sabarini and Agnes Winarti look at developments in Bali, particularly among the younger generation, and among survivors of the terrorist acts.

Days after the bombing in Bali 10 years ago, the vocalist of rock band Navicula, Gde Robi Supriyanto, was busy. Like many Balinese youngsters, he was part of the island’s tourism industry, working in a tour and travel agency, while playing music on the side.

After terrorists bombed Paddy’s Pub and the Sari nightclub in Kuta, tourists fled in the hundreds. The whole week after the bombing, Robi, 33, frantically worked to cancel visitors’ bookings. His boss had to hire more staff simply to cancel clients existing itineraries as they headed for home.

Some of his colleagues were laid off, while his working hours were reduced from six days a week to just three. The bombing and the turn of events later inspired a change in the path of his life. With more free time on his hands, he turned from his day job to focus on his music and social activism.

Indeed, the aftermath of the bombing became a turning point, a moment that the youth of Bali took and shaped into a life driven more by creativity rather than tourism. A decade after the first Bali bombing in Kuta and seven years from the second bombing, tourism has fully recovered and is growing rapidly. However, driven by the island’s young and interconnected with the indie movement in other Indonesian cities and abroad, another sector has sprung up: the creative industry.

The typical career or business path most Balinese youth embark upon begins with an entry into the tourist industry. With a thriving industry, the young can always make money, Robi said.

Like Robi, Navicula’s guitar player and founder of blues band Dialog Dini Hari, Dadang Pranoto, 33, went to tourism school after graduating from high school. “People can get a job in tourism while they’re still in college or … they can be a tour guide for two or three days,” Robi said.

But the bombings changed that. For one thing, the indie music scene in post-Bali bombing became livelier than ever. Bars that had once catered to tourists started to seek out a younger local crowd. “And if they wanted people from Denpasar to come, they had to bring in local Balinese bands,” Robi said. Local indie bands, such as Navicula and punk band Superman is Dead, started to get record deals with major labels.

Local punk aficionado Rudolf Dethu, 43, then the manager of Superman is Dead, later opened his clothing shop Suicide Glam as a meeting point for the indie community.

Young people started to meet up and exchange ideas. The music community worked together with the art community and people from design, clothing, filmmaking and other creative industries, including urban farming.

Small independent businesses started establishing themselves in the island and by 2008, the Bali Creative Community was founded.

Rudolf, one of the founders of the community, said that the emergence of Bali’s creative industry was nearly simultaneous with similar developments in Bandung, West Java’s capital, whose youth have developed their own music, clothing and design industries.

“The idea is to branch out from tourism so we’re not dependent on it and Bali would not be heavily affected by force majeurs,” Rudolf, who now resides in Sydney, said during a Skype interview. Apart from terrorist attacks, an outbreak of bird flu could also send tourists packing, he added.

Nina Hadinata, the 28-year-old founder of clothing label This is a Love Song, acknowledged tourism’s contribution to the island’s economy, but she added that she was sometimes saddened by current developments that “change the simplicity of the island we used to know”.

Nina believes that Bali’s youth are shaping the island with innovation and creativity. “Now more than ever, there is a force of young people striving to think outside the box, creating ideas that we have never seen before here on the island,” she wrote in an email.

The size of Bali’s creative industry has yet to be measured. Rudolf said the community is a fluid organization that was different from a business association. The leading industry in Bali is still tourism, contributing 30 percent of total regional revenue. The second-largest sector is agriculture, a fall-back in Bali if disruptions destabilize the tourism sector, according to the head of the Central Statistics Agency (BPS)’s Bali office, Gede Suarsa.

The tourist industry is undoubtedly growing strong, but those reaping the largest benefits come from mostly outside of Bali. Suarsa estimated that 75 percent of players in the tourism industry are from other parts of Indonesia or from foreign countries. This lopsided ownership poses risks of capital flight if tourism in Bali faces a time of crisis.

Some local entrepreneurs are concerned they will be marginalized by outside interests who do not share the same cultural traditions and responsibilities.

Suparta Karang is the owner of Mimpi bungalows and a native of Kuta. After the 2002 bombings, he initiated the Kuta Carnival Festival to attract tourists. He said people from outside of Bali had an advantage over locals, who are obliged to be involved in the planning and organizing of the numerous religious rituals, and less time to run their businesses than other investors.

Bali Tourism Board director Ngurah Wijaya said the unique Balinese culture is what makes the island such a special destination. So, the government should prevent Balinese business owners from being marginalized through proper management of the tourist industry. “You can’t blame the businesspeople … but the government should make sure that the development that’s underway matches with what Balinese need, and not with what national [business players] need”.

Ngurah wonders whether Bali actually needs as many tourists and as many hotels as it has today. The island welcomed more than 2.8 million last year, an increase from around 2.5 million visitors in 2010. Badung regency, home to Kuta, Nusa Dua and Jimbaran, has seen a surge in hotel rooms, from around 37,000 in 2001 to 78,000 this year.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika acknowledged the problem of mass tourism in Bali.

“So many people come to earn their livings here, to get wealthy and to suck money from Bali,” he said.

While Bali was becoming more prosperous, he said, it was becoming overwhelmed with urban issues of traffic jams, garbage, water problems, accommodations, pollution and social disparities. Pastika attempted to call for a moratorium on hotel development in Badung, Gianyar and Denpasar, to shift development to the island’s less popular northern areas. However, the call was not compulsory and the southern areas were less willing to cooperate. Badung regent AA Gede Agung said he still welcomed hotel investment projects.

While creative Bali youth expand their horizons to other areas, local leaders remain fixated on tourism. All around them, other creative people are producing innovative products, such as Nina with her clothing label, and other youth engaged in film and design. It seems as though the regional leaders of Bali stand to learn a thing or two from the island’s youth.

The Jakarta Post | Reportage | Fri, October 12 2012

Kuta: From a hippy gem to an overcrowded tourist strip

Rebound: Tourists pass Jl. Legian on the Kuta tourist strip, which reeled after 202 people died in the bombings in 2002. The isle’s second terror attack, in 005, further devastated the island’s tourism-dependent economy. Today, Bali’s young people are now turning to creative industries to make their ivelihoods. (JP/Agung Parameswara)
Rebound: Tourists pass Jl. Legian on the Kuta tourist strip, which reeled after 202 people died in the bombings in 2002. The isle’s second terror attack, in 005, further devastated the island’s tourism-dependent economy. Today, Bali’s young people are now turning to creative industries to make their ivelihoods. (JP/Agung Parameswara)

At the turn of the 1960s–‘70s, 17-year-old I Made Wendra would see American hippies camping on Kuta’s white sandy beaches.

At the time there were no hotels in Kuta, apart from the big government-owned Grand Inna hotel, according to Wendra.

The hotel was only accessible to those who had the money to afford to stay there, so the rest (and the more adventurous traveler) had to be content with tents.

However, there was one facility the campers lacked, which was a bathroom, and they did not want to defecate on the beach.

“They had to go to the villagers’ houses, so that’s how we first began contact with tourists,” Wendra said. “But we didn’t have toilets either! The visitors told us that we should make toilets and that we should rent out places for them and that was the start of it,” Wendra said. His family would rent out their house to tourists and Wendra experienced nights sleeping on the kitchen floor.

While it was nature’s call that made tourists connect with the villagers, the flocking of tourists to Kuta, which transformed the area into a bustling tourist enclave by 1990s, was mostly down to word of mouth, he said.

Wendra witnessed Kuta’s transformation from a sleepy village into the mass tourist center that it is today. When terrorists hit Bali on Oct. 12, 2002 with the bombing at the Sari club on Jl. Legian, he was the customary village leader in Kuta.

The attack was only a short walk away from his lodgings at the Aquarius Hotel, and so he was among the first who helped victims of the attack.

The attack in 2002 and again in 2005 wrecked Bali’s heavily tourism-dependent economy. “Kuta experienced the biggest hit,” Wendra said.

After each bombing, it took around one year to recover. Ten years after the first attack, Kuta is the bustling area it was before and more. But there is the feeling of a good thing gone sour.

Traffic jams frequent the narrow Legian road up to the wee morning hours. In what was once a place famous for its small budget hotels, huge high rise developments have joined the crowd.

Former Kuta head district I Gusti Adnya Subrata who was in office during the Bali bombing tragedy said that Kuta developed “too soon” and the government attempted to manage it “too late”.

“Kuta’s growth was unplanned. It grew by itself and the local government was too late in setting up infrastructure,” Subrata said. Unlike the resort area developed by the government — Nusa Dua, in the most sourthern part of Bali, which is equipped with large roads and adequate pedestrian paths — Kuta developed organically.

Families of locals such as Wendra, Subrata and Supatra Karang (owner of Mimpi bungalows and initiator of Kuta Carnival) started to build accommodation between Kuta’s narrow roads. This also attracted investors from outside Bali who followed the wave of Kuta’s increasing popularity and opened hotels, bars and restaurants to get a slice of the tourism pie. Subrata said despite its chaos, people were drawn to Kuta because they could interact with the local Balinese. “Which is different to Nusa Dua,” he said.

Kuta’s regency, Badung, has the highest increase of hotel rooms in the whole island. Badung, which consists of Kuta, Seminyak, Canggu, Nusa and Jimbaran, had more than 78,000 rooms in June 2012. Over a decade ago the area only had less than half of that number with nearly 37,000 rooms in 2001, according to the Association of Indonesian Hotels and Restaurants (PHRI).

Karang, who initiated the annual Kuta Carnival to revive tourism in the area, said that there is now an urgent environmental problem to tackle in Kuta aside from the traffic jams.

Groundwater exploitation due to mass tourism will lead Kuta to a water crisis, he said. This had been predicted nearly two decades before in 1997 by the Environment Ministry. The ministry predicted that the island would experience a water deficit of up to 27 billion liters by next year.

Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika last year initiated a moratorium for hotel development in the southern part of Bali — Badung, Denpasar and Gianyar — but regional leaders have refused to commit to it. Badung Regent AA Gede Agung said that his regency still welcomed hotel investment projects.

The only place that is off-limits to hotel investment projects is the area where Sari club once stood. Across from the bomb memorial on Jl. Legian, the plot of land is an abandoned vacant lot. Pastika and the Australian government want to develop the place into a memorial park for the bomb victims. Plans for this are stifled because the owner, who lives in Jakarta, is asking for a “crazy” price, Pastika said. For now, this plot of land at least is free from new development.

— JP/Prodita Sabarini

The Jakarta Post | Reportage | Fri, October 12 2012

A decade after the bombs, Bali remains vigilant

A decade after the 2002 bombing, Bali continues to be vigilant of terrorist threats as more tourists and migrants flock to the island of gods.

Bali governor Made Mangku Pastika on Wednesday told a reporter that despite Bali’s full economic and security recovery in the decade since the first bombing in 2002 and seven years since the second bombing in 2005, security, intelligence and the local community are continually on alert for possible terrorist threats.

“We have to be very, very cautious, all the time,” he said. Pastika said that the people of Bali realize that terrorists are “living around us” and that the Balinese have accepted this as something that the community has to deal with as part of their lives. The security [officers] and the people must carry out preventative and pre-emptive measures “to clean our society,”

“That’s the only thing we can do, you know? Bali is a destination for everybody. We cannot check everybody who wants to come to Bali. There are a lot of entry points into Bali. They can come and go anytime – this is the tourist area. That is the biggest problem,” Pastika said.

Bali tourism has continued to grow in the last years. More than 2.8 million visitors came to Bali last year an increase from around 2.5 million visitors in 2010. Economic development on the island has also attracted people outside Bali to live and work in the island. According to the 2010 census out every 1,000 people living in Bali, 28 of them are migrants.

“So I always say, ‘yes, now we are safe’ but I don’t know about tomorrow. Nobody can guarantee that, even the best security officers in the world,” he said.

In March, Indonesia’s anti-terrorist squad Detachment 88 received a tip off that a terrorist group planning to carry out a suicide mission had arrived in Bali. Police killed five suspected terrorist linked to Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), founded by radical cleric Abu Bakar Baasyir, who were believed to be planning to launch an attack in Bali and other areas in the country. The suicide bomb groom reportedly escaped.

Indonesia’s top tourist destination is gearing up for the 10th commemoration of the first Bali bombing. On Oct. 12, 2002, terrorist attacked Sari Club in Jalan Legian, Kuta killing 202 people, 88 of them Australian. Terrorist launched a second attack three years after in Jimbaran and Kuta, which killed 20 people.

This year’s commemorations will be the biggest of all of the ceremonies staged in the last 10 years. The Bali administration also said that this would be the last. “It’s not easy to forget a tragedy so big, but I think we have to forgive and with this forgiving spirit we hold this commemoration,” Pastika, who led the investigation of the first Bali bombing, said.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and former Prime Minister John Howard is expected to attend the ceremony on Friday at Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park in Jimbaran. Around 4,000 people are expected to attend, including around 800 Australians who are families of the victims of the bombing.

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | National | Wed, October 10 2012